Why we need to protect and diversify journalism 

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As journalism continues to evolve with the moving landscape of politics, social media and society, how can we make sure that people stay well-informed? Abby Phillip, a journalist of color and correspondent for CNN, describes the importance but also the trials and tribulations of journalism in USG’s Justice Now initiative yesterday night. 

During Phillip’s coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration, the term “fake news” was used to describe anything that Trump disliked, according to Phillip. Phillip expressed the frustration of misinformation as one of the challenges journalists have to fight against. What once started at the local level, fake news has spread into the international sphere, Phillip added.  

“I think we have a real problem in this country where people are unable to differentiate the truth from the falsehoods,” Phillips said. “We have a problem where our voting populous is vulnerable to attacks by foreign governments who simply have to just dupe you on the internet in order to affect your think[ing] about issues and change the politics of a country. I think this rhetoric of fake news really set up back a lot in dealing with that core fundamental problem that continues to undermine our democracy.”  

Misinformation can be disguised as news that confuses people. Phillip states that it’s more important than ever to train people on differentiating what’s fake and truthful news. Additionally, determining the role of entertainment apps and sites in curating truthful news is just as important according to Phillip.  

“One of the Trump quotes I will never forget is at a rally early in his presidency, he literally told his supporters, ‘don’t believe what you see and hear, believe what I tell you,’ and that was very prescient because we’ve been confronted with that reality a lot and it’s just a reminder that that is what people in power might want to do,” Philip said. 

“I realized early on in my career that so many people who look like me had actually gotten out of the business and because they were no longer around, I always felt alone because there weren’t as many people to look up to.”

Abby Phillip, Journalist and Correspondent for CNN

Phillip stated that people value authenticity, and that’s why they gravitate toward journalists who are truthful in their reporting. Communication is important for people to trust in journalists. By being receptive, honest and creating outreach, journalists can develop and grow trust. Even when certain facts are still developing, it’s crucial to just state when the answer is unknown.  

“You guys are growing up in an era where people are just literally whipping out their phones and broadcasting from their phones so why would we communicate to each other in ways that no human being would communicate with another human being in real life,” Phillip said. “So that’s about the delivery and substance of journalism. It’s to say I’m going to actually talk to you like this like you’re my friend and not somebody like I need to teach.” 

As technology develops, anyone can be a citizen journalist. Citizens become the first draft of journalism according to Phillip. Journalists on the other hand, have become the second draft of history. They are given the job to put things in their context. Journalists cannot just repeat information but need to tell the difference between what’s true and false. Journalists have to earn the trust of their audience through telling the truth and being transparent, Phillip said.  

“I realized early on in my career that so many people who look like me had actually gotten out of the business and because they were no longer around, I always felt alone because there weren’t as many people to look up to,” Phillip said.  

Though the field of journalism can be tough, Phillip added that there needs to be more diversity in journalism. With more diversity, allies and friendships are built and opportunities are created.  

“Your life is probably inherently more interesting than your peers, that’s the truth because you’re usually doing something, experiencing something that they’re only reading about and that’s what makes it really cool and really fun,” Phillip said.  

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